If someone you love is over the age of 18 but cannot care for themselves, you likely worry about their well-being. Elderly and disabled adults are at higher risk for abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
While Georgia law protects such at-risk adults, as the number of elderly people continues to rise in our state the number of abuse cases rises as well. Georgia has faced a growing number of elder abuse cases in the past decade, and this increase does not show the full scale of the problem as these types of cases are underreported.
In the face of this problem, Georgia has taken steps to better its laws concerning such matters. The past decade has seen improvement in Georgia’s criminal code for protecting the rights of at-risk adults. At this point, at the beginning of 2021, how does Georgia protect its at-risk adults?
Who Qualifies As An At-Risk Adult?
The first thing to look at is considering this question is who precisely qualifies as an at-risk adult. Georgia law protecting at-risk adults include elders, residents, and disabled adults. Here is how Georgia defines these 3 types of at-risk adults.
- Elder: Anyone over the age of 65
- Resident: Someone who lives in a long term care facility
- Disabled Adult: Anyone over the age of 18 who is either physically or mentally incapacitated or suffering from a degenerative mental disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s
If you know someone who falls into one of these categories, then Georgia law provides them protection in both civil and criminal cases.
What Are At-Risk Adults Protected From?
Georgia law protects at-risk adults from three specific issues: abuse, neglect, and exploitation. If one of your loved ones is a victim of one of these three things, then they qualify for protection under Georgia law.
The general term abuse covers three types of abuse a person may suffer: physical, emotional, and sexual.
Physical abuse involves violence such as slapping or hitting, but it also extends to improper use of restraints, improper medication use, and not providing bodily necessities such as food and water.
Emotional abuse means causing some sort of mental anguish to the victim. This can be in the form of yelling, threats, intimidation, and other things that cause an at-risk adult great emotional distress.
Sexual abuse covers any nonconsensual sexual act or touch.
Neglect has a narrower definition than abuse. Neglect is the failure to provide necessities. This covers medicine, food, water, hygiene, shelter, clothing. Neglect can also be leaving someone alone for extended periods of time. The lack of these necessitates must go so far as to cause either physical or emotional harm to the person to be considered a violation of the law.
Exploitation refers to using an elderly or disabled person for someone else’s advantage. This usually refers to theft or improper use of a person’s money or property. Exploitation can be carried out through trickery, intimidation, or plain force.
Exploitation is a form of abuse that Georgia is taking steps to decrease. As recently as 2017, Georgia enacted a new law, the Uniform Power of Attorney Act to protect elderly and disabled adults from exploitation by their power of attorney. According to this law, a POA must act fiscally responsible and not use their position to benefit themselves.
How Seriously Does Georgia Treat These Cases?
Georgia has gotten stricter with its laws protecting at-risk adults. To willingly and knowingly take advantage of an at-risk adult is a crime. According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-102, even financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person is a criminal offense classified as a felony.
Conviction of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly or disabled person in Georgia is punishable by 1 to 20 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000. Georgia law does not take this matter lightly.
What Does This Mean for You and Your Loved Ones?
While the abuse of elderly and disabled persons is an often unseen but prominent issue, Georgia is taking steps to better itself through stricter laws on this matter. If you suspect an at-risk loved one is suffering from abuse, neglect, or exploitation do not keep silent!